Evaluating Sales Hires Without Meeting Them

Let’s be honest: Hiring is difficult. If there was a formula for making sure you hired the right person every time someone would be a billionaire because of it. Sure, technology has helped. From personality assessments to competency analysis to capturing predictive indicators of success there have certainly been some advancements here. But try as we might, I don’t believe anything will ever truly crack the code of the human psyche to understand whether the individual in front of you will truly adapt to the job and show you a return on investment.

This is even more difficult when you’re interviewing junior hires, with little to no professional work experience post education. Now add in Covid-19 and the quarantine, which prevented us from meeting our recent hires in person to assess things like body language and eye contact? The situation was far from ideal, but we had a goal to form a new recruitment team — eight new hires — to start as soon as we were able to post-quarantine

As a first step, we defined what success typically looks like at our company and the profile of the ideal candidate. From there, the talent acquisition team screened just over 30 candidates to put in front of me for a second interview and I narrowed it down to 13 semi-finalists.

In pre-pandemic times, this is where I would have them come to the office for a phone test, where I can assess their ability to pick up the phone and ask someone they don’t know for information they need. It might be old-school, but I’ve found the phone test to be very effective in weeding out that fear of the phone even with experienced hires might have. In the first weeks of having a new hire in, this is the biggest thing I look for to know quickly if I have the right person in the seat or not. So for my test, I give them a list of local companies, leave them in a room with a phone (I do not stay) and some instructions on what to get. I do not give them a time frame. If I go back after 30 minutes and they’ve only called two companies, I know this is not my person.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Staffing firm operations in the Covid-19 environment

Hiring virtually, I wanted to find a way to glean the same read on behavior in my 13 semi-finalist candidates. I shared with my brilliant global director of talent acquisition my vision of almost a virtual “speed dating,” who filled in the rest: We gave each candidate a case study and directions to structure a sales pitch they would make in a conference call format with several key members of the team.

Each candidate had 15 minutes with two separate panelists. Due to the size of the group, we had identified four panelists and arranged it via Google Hangouts. The candidates would stay in the same Hangout with the panelists moving to the next person after the 15 minutes were up. It took tight scheduling and management to ensure no one went over but it worked well.

We provided the panelists with a scoring system to rate the candidates on things like tone of voice, quality of pitch, research done, call introduction, etc. This gave candidates the exposure to different interviewers and allowed us to more effectively evaluate how we think they would perform once on the job.

In the end, it made for a very interactive experience and all involved had a lot of fun. Most important, we received positive feedback from each candidate about the experience, whether we ended up hiring them or not.

This new hire group is now two months into their employment and showing every sign of early success on the job. They have put together their first placements and are achieving KPIs — not to mention one of the highest-energy groups we have in the company!

Tricia Bielinski
Tricia Bielinski is global HR director, K2 Partnering Solutions Ltd.

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